Janice Harper (sister of late WCBS anchor Jim Harper) 7/10/06
I came across your web-site of WCBS, and wondered if you might be able to help me track down a tape that my deceased brother, Jim Harper, did of an interview
with Eldridge Cleaver in the late 1960s. My brother was an anchorman at WCBS
in the late 1960s and left in 1970; shortly after, (as you might know if you
knew him) he committed suicide, leaving behind many tapes of interviews and
The Eldridge Cleaver tape, as well as some others, eventually eroded over time, and from your web-site it sounds as if you may have access to some
archival tapes, and so I thought I'd get in touch with you in the event you
knew if and/or where a copy of the tape might exist.
Also, on the website was a piece by Bob Vaughn, who mentions working with my brother -- do you by chance have an e-mail address for him?
Thank you very much for your time and any assistance you may provide,
Janice Harper, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
University of Tennessee
250 South Stadium Hall
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-0720
Phone: (865) 974-2912
Fax: (865) 974-2686
NOTE from Don Swaim: I remember Jim well. He befriended me even before I officially started at WCBS in 1967. Driving to New York from Baltimore for a job interview at WCBS, I had a flat tire on the New Jersey Turnpike. My interview was successful and I got the job. When I was introduced to Jim that day I mentioned I'd had a flat tire but hadn't brought enough money to buy a new one. Jim loaned me his credit card, and he'd just met me! I used his card to buy a new tire (and to have a celebratory dinner at the Top of the Sixes) before driving back to Baltimore. Two weeks later when I started work at WCBS, I returned Jim's card and reimbursed him for the charges I put on it. I'll never forget his trust and generosity to a young man he didn't even know.
About the Eldridge Cleaver tape. I don't have a copy, nor do I have copies of any tapes of your late brother. However, with you permission, I'll be happy to post your query on the WCBS Memories/News page of the WCBS Appreciation Site in the (slim) chance someone else might have a copy.
PS. I understand there's a simple technique that some people use to restore damaged audio tape, which erodes and adheres to itself over time. The tape can be placed in an oven at an extremely low temperature. The low heat frees the tape from sticking together, at least enough to allow it to be copied or digitized. There may be more about this technique on the Internet.
Additional note by Don Swaim: Jim Harper was an enormously talented young man, younger than I, who joined WJR, Detroit, as a news broadcaster right out of high school (maybe during). He didn't go to college. In some respects, he was advanced (to WCBS) too soon, too young. Perhaps his youth and immaturity overtook his enormorus talent, I don't know.
Within a couple of years Jim got involved with drugs, which impaired his ability (although I didn't know it at the time). He took a vacation to South America and, apparently, never returned to WCBS. He went back to Detroit, where he shot himself. I believe he was just twenty-six. The late Bob Glenn, then an anchor at WCBS, relayed that sad news to us.